As a freelance writer, I’m lucky to have free time to browse social media websites in an effort to find ideas for work/ leisure. However, what I came across recently piqued my interest immensely though it doesn’t necessarily fit into that category.
Ladies & Gentlemen, may I present ESHA – an initiative launched by IIM Calcutta alumnus, Nidhi Arora in 2005 to “help the blind in small ways that make a big difference”. Born into a family that was inclined towards social service, Nidhi found her calling at the age of 9 on television while watching the critically acclaimed movie, SPARSH. She knew then that she wanted to help the Visually Impaired but didn’t know how. Her search for a Braille teacher began when she was an adolescent in school. Things took a turn for the better when she enrolled at St. Francis College, Hyderabad, in 1997. A workshop conducted by the Devnaar foundation for the Blind proved to be the light at the end of the tunnel. Armed with a braille typewriter, she single handedly created Braille books for those who wanted to read & learn. Her passion also led her to explore various mediums of expression for the Visually Impaired ; wet painting being one of them. She pioneered painting with liquid colours for the blind – a task that many of us would still grapple with !
After moving to Delhi in 2001, Nidhi started working with the Oberoi Blind School. In an effort to sensitise people towards the Visually Impaired, she started conducting theatre workshops for them , along with them. She also came up with a novel idea to create visiting cards with Braille for corporates/ individuals in an effort to popularize Braille. Many volunteers joined her then in her many initiatives who still stand by the cause. Though she worked diligently against the fatalists who believed that it was impossible to educate the VI, Nidhi began to realize (and had to accept) that there was a gap. There were very few books available in Braille while there were many, many more takers. The need of the hour was for a cheap, easy to procure & easier to share medium of acquiring knowledge. Coupled with the digital revolution & advent of social media, Nidhi came up with the idea of an online audio library. This would not only minimize dependency on Braille books but also be available to many others who had no access to schools etc. Most importantly, this would be a library comprising of material recorded in Indian languages ! This is how CLABIL was formed – Central Library of Audio Books in Indian languages.
Here is the most interesting part about this initiative – YOU CAN HELP FREE OF COST FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME/ OFFICE/SCHOOL. Cool, no ? All you have to do is record something (an article, poem, short story, facts, jokes … you get the drift, right?) in a language of your choice (Marathi, Tamil, Hindi, English, Sanskrit) from your laptop/ smart phone & upload it to their website. They will catalogue it & make it available through their audio content library. Want to do more ? If you’d like to organize a Read Fest (wherein many people get together to record content) in your school, college, company or condominium; just get in touch with the people at Esha. Alternately, you could also buy their Thank you cards in Braille for special occasions or just to say Thanks !
To know more about Esha’s events, partners, achievements; please do check out their website http://www.eshabraille.blogspot.in and www.braillecards.org and www.clabil.org